The internet should be treated as another environment and cyber world is an environment that children and teens now spend a lot of time in.
There is either limited information, or mixed views on how the internet should be managed with young people. There is one major reason for this, and that is that the technology has moved so fast that research and therefore knowledge about what to do and how to manage has not been able to keep up.
I attended a conference talk that focussed on cyber psychology and the take home point for me was that the internet is an environment, and right now, it's like a party ... the type that happens when someones parents have gone away for the weekend... and that's because it is an environment without authority. This is the problem. At home, school, friends places, there is someone in charge or an understanding that authority is part of the context. On the internet this does not exist and there is lots of research to say how this changes adult and children's behaviour.
Pair this with the fact that young people have limited learned experience (e.g. okay I've been in this situation before and there is a danger pending here) and their prefrontal cortex is well premature of being fully developed, meaning their risk/reward centre does not calculate risk like an adult does and we have a problem situation.
It was laughable to speak to my niece when I was getting snapchats from her in class at high school. When I asked if they're allowed on their phones in class she said that the school believe they have disabled access to social media apps through their wifi but the kids all know the hack to get on them. Isn't that just laughable?
At conference parents were warned, "You're going to be told things that are going to shock you, but they're things you need to know" the first of these being the heads up to google 'how to get through parent internet blocks' where you will get screeds of information to quickly solve your problem. It has been recently publicised that research has shown the median age to have seen porn online is 11 years old. We all know children of this age are not emotionally, sexually or cognitively old enough to manage this.
So, what to do?
- Keep up, well at least try.
- If you have the mindset that this is an environment that your child is hanging out in then you might talk to your child like this. What's happening on the internet? What's going on on instagram/snapchat?
- Have clear boundaries and rules.
- Attend anything that schools or community agencies have going on the topic. Know what the latest trends and risks are.
- Be open and engaging when you learn things that are going on. If you are closed and defensive, you're going to close yourself off from your child's cyber life.
Good book: The Cyber Effect: A Pioneering Cyberpsychologist Explains How Human Behaviour Changes Online. By Mary Aiken
B.A, M.Ed, PgDip ChFamPsych